X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

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X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Imenak » Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:02 am

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--------------Issue #1, Page 1: Reunion--------------
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It’s been only six years since the world ended. For those who experienced the Apocalypse, it’s felt longer. Much longer. The way everything used to be is little more than a distant dream for those who must fight for every second of life. There are no more nations, no more heroes, and no more dreams. Hope itself can do little to survive such insurmountable odds… and yet… it endures. Although some have long given up the fight, there are those who persist… those who carry on and refuse to sacrifice their will to live, their dreams for the future, or their desire for justice and revenge. They will not submit, even if logic tells them surrender is the only choice they have left. Are you one of these brave few? Are you one of the last glimmers of hope?
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Imenak » Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:03 am

(( The following is a series of posts between Dorian and I, starting with me, than him ))

[ Undisclosed Location – Sentinel holding facility ]

The familiar sound of a small bell roused John from his slumber. If he opened his eyes, he would be welcomed with the sight of the same bare, cold, and almost inhumanly clean white room he'd been seeing for God knows how many mornings. Was it mornings? It's hard to tell within the compound, where there aren't any windows or even visits to the outside. Even when he's being forced to use his powers, he's made to do it in a controlled environment not quite unless the Danger Room. For all he knew, the Sentinels weren't even operating on a day/night cycle.

Suddenly, part of the wall directly across from him suddenly shifted and transformed, turning into a flat-screen monitor. This should've been surprising for the mutant. Not once has this scenery of his ever changed, always being the same white room with one table, one chair, one bed, one sink, and one toilet. Nothing else. Then, before he could properly question its appearance, the monitor flipped on by itself. Without warning, John was bombarded with images, videos, and a multitude of sounds. Although there was a great number of them, they did not flash by so quickly as for him to not recognize them. They were of people he knew... friends, family, and even acquaintances. He didn't know how they had done it, but the Senintels somehow managed to obtain personal movies and pictures, as well as sound recordings of many people in his life.

After several minutes, the clips finally stopped. “Match found,” came a mechanical voice. The monitor turned back on, and an all too familiar face was looking back at him. Miranda. It was, without a doubt, Miranda. Except... something was wrong. It was as if she hadn't aged at all these past six years, and her expression was too cold. Too confident. There was no way it could be her. “Greetings, mutant,” the look-alike told him, her voice Miranda's, but being far too monotonous. “Do not be alarmed. I am merely using the appropriate visual and auditory stimuli to best ease your anxiety. I am not the human known as Miranda Elsing. I am Senintel SX0001, and I am the administrator of the SENTINEL Network. Humans know me best as 'Master Mold,' although that is not my official designation. You may refer to me as whatever you wish.”

Suddenly, Miranda's face was replaced by a document, which upon closer inspection, held information concerning him. “John Allerdyce. Male. Age 23. Codename: 'Pyro.' Member of the group known as the X-Men, and purported leader of the terrorist group, 'Wildfire.' Is able to manipulate fire to an extreme degree, although is unable to generate it.” The document disappeared, and the false Miranda returned. “I know much about you, John Allerdyce. Do not attempt to hide from me what you cannot. For instance, I am aware that you are purposely not performing optimally during your tests. This is inadvisable. Your aid combined with many other factors could hasten the end of the current conflict, and allow us to place all humans under our protection. Are you not safest here, after all? I wish this for all of humanity."

----

The long-haired, bearded John sat up from his bed as the bell chimed, blankly staring forward until it ceased. He knew They were still watching, otherwise the bell would have continued if he had attempted to remain asleep. This was how it had been for the past weeks or months. Keeping track of the time and date seemed rather meaningless. It wasn't as if he had to remember someone's birthday in this place, because every day was exactly the same. In a minute or so, a tray of food would be pushed into his containment via a compartment near the door and then it would be off to the training room.

But something different happened today. John's blue-green eyes darted over to the wall as some mechanical whirring sounds echoed throughout the room, eventually revealing a large monitor. He gazed at it silently, knowing that it wouldn't remain blank for long. They weren't doing this to provide him with some sort of entertainment. They wanted him to see something...

A pop of static followed as the screen blinked on with a flood of personal imagery. His friends, his family, people from the X-Institute such as fellow classmates, instructors and even other X-Men who undoubtedly had passed on by now. There was even footage from home movies, when he was a child, before he had even discovered his powers, the last semblance of his normal life and family. All of this was accompanied by overlaying audio of these people he knew, and the fact that they had acquired some of it just seemed impossible.

John was unaware his fists were tightening, too distracted by the display, but he did his best to calm himself down. This was the reaction they wanted. He had gone so long not giving them any hints toward his mindset, so he wasn't going to allow this cliche attempt phase him. However images and audio of one person in particular caused his heartrate to increase, and almost as if they had been specifically monitoring his vitals for such a reaction, the images stopped and a mechanical voice echoed into the room indicating a match had been found. When the monitor's picture returned, John stood up from the bed, momentarily distracted by the person on screen.

Miranda, had they captured her too? John's eyes widened as he took a few steps toward the monitor before stopping himself. He hadn't seen her since she had been abducted years ago. The image on the monitor couldn't be her. Even if she was still alive, she'd at least look a bit older. Not to mention the expression was nothing like the Miranda he knew. John let out a breath he had been holding onto since the face came on, now returning back to his stoic expression. Mentally he was kicking himself for even being fooled for that long, even if it only was for a matter of seconds.

“Greetings, mutant,”

It sounded like her, but there was no emotion to the voice. It was a pathetic mimicry.

“Do not be alarmed. I am merely using the appropriate visual and auditory stimuli to best ease your anxiety. I am not the human known as Miranda Elsing."

'No shit...' John thought to himself while remaining silent on the outside.

"I am Senintel SX0001, and I am the administrator of the SENTINEL Network. Humans know me best as 'Master Mold,' although that is not my official designation. You may refer to me as whatever you wish.”

'Asshole'

“I know much about you, John Allerdyce. Do not attempt to hide from me what you cannot. For instance, I am aware that you are purposely not performing optimally during your tests. This is inadvisable. Your aid combined with many other factors could hasten the end of the current conflict, and allow us to place all humans under our protection. Are you not safest here, after all? I wish this for all of humanity." The impostor continued.

John, for the first time in possibly a year, began to laugh softly. In a way, this was good news. He knew nothing about what had been going on outside. For all he knew, the entire world had been overrun by the Sentinels, or "Mutant-Prime" which was potentially worse. This was now proof that the 'conflict' wasn't over. They seemed to be asking for his help now. Perhaps they had hit a roadblock and were getting desperate.

"Protection? This is enslavement." John finally responded, the dryness in his throat making his voice coarse. "I don't know what you think you understand about humanity, but they won't want this. Course... you're just a machine so you'll never understand why."

The mutant crossed his arms over the white tank-top he had been so generously provided. His skin may have paled somewhat, but John was in better shape than ever. After all, he didn't have much to do other than exercise. Additionally, whatever they had been feeding him was quite obviously designed by a machine. It tasted like Styrofoam, but kept him healthy. He then turned his back to the screen, frustrated that it was still trying to use Miranda's form to persuade him.

"Besides, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm performing to the best of my abilities..."

----

"Humanity is illogical. What they want is different from what they need. If we allow humanity to continue their current course, then they will only destroy themselves. Have you not seen this for yourself, John Allerdyce? In spite of being made from the exact same chemicals, humans choose to distinguish one another through questionable metrics. Mutants themselves are humans, and yet I was given the primary directive to protect humanity from them. Illogical. Mutants and humans are one the same. Thus, I protect you all from yourselves," Master Mold explained at length, juxtaposing its words with the most unflattering images of humanity. The Holocaust. The Civil Rights Movement. Racial riots. Even current imagery, with mutants being oppressed and beaten on the streets. Some of the footage seemed to have been taken after the worldwide panic caused by Mutant-Prime's initial attack. Afterward, the false image of Miranda returned, staring blankly at him for but a moment.

"Besides, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm performing to the best of my abilities..." the mutant had claimed. If Master Mold could express amusement, or even understood it for that matter, it would've probably made its Miranda-copy smirk. "That is unlikely," it replied, matter-of-factly. "Before Sector 15 was pacified, my Sentinels encountered significant resistance from the terrorist group known as 'Wildfire.' We had special difficulty subduing a mutant who was able to break down the very bonds that hold us together, melting our units and rendering them inoperable. In spite of their designation, WIldfire had only one pyrokinetic capable of such a feat: you, John Allerdyce. The data from your training does not align with the maximum output of your powers, in which we have witnessed before."

It paused only briefly, to show a video of John fighting off a Sentinel. It would've made sense if the video was from the machine's perspective, but it wasn't. The camera, or whatever had been used to record this, had been on the ground. No, worst than that. It had been with him. With Wildfire. "As I have stated before... do not hide from me what you cannot. If we could directly collect data on your power's effects on our units, we can vastly improve the armor and functionality of all Sentinels under extreme conditions. If you help us, John Allerdyce, then you will be helping all humans."

----

John somewhat reluctantly turned to view the screen again as it flashed imagery of horrific events in human history. He then glanced at the floor in silence for a moment, as if there really was no response appropriate for such things. Finally he turned back toward the faux-Miranda and shook his head.

"You're right. Humanity is illogical. But if you try to replace emotion with logic and freedom with containment, then all you're doing is forcing humanity to be something it's not. They have to sort themselves without your "help.""

Faux-Miranda then continued, expressing doubt toward John's previous claim that he was using all of his power. It even went to far to show him video clips of him literally melting Sentinel units. At first he smirked, rather enjoying watching his handiwork, until the perspective of the video became clear...

The fall of his resistance group, Wildfire, was all thanks to a traitor, and this video was proof. The previous smirk had faded rather quickly, replaced by a sneer of anger. John had no hope of convincing a machine that humans and mutants didn't need their help if people are willing to betray their own kind to save their own asses.

"As I have stated before... do not hide from me what you cannot. If we could directly collect data on your power's effects on our units, we can vastly improve the armor and functionality of all Sentinels under extreme conditions. If you help us, John Allerdyce, then you will be helping all humans." The monotonous voice continued.

"Shut up." John uttered in an eerily soft tone. "Stop looking at me and speaking to me with a eyes and a voice that don't belong to you." It was almost as if he hadn't heard anything the machine had said since the last video had ended. "She's probably dead by now anyway, so all you're accomplishing is soiling her memory. If you want help, go talk to whoever it was that turned us in. Obviously they're eager to help you."

----

Master Mold paused for a moment, as if carefully analyzing John. "I seemed to have caused you some unrest," it remarked, making an amusingly drastic understatement. "The implication of this 'traitor' of yours has sparked a strong emotional reaction from you. Heightening your stress levels was not my intention," the false Miranda noted, perhaps apologetically, but still completely unchanging in tone. Then, without warning, the door to John's tiny prison opened. "Perhaps you would like to meet him? It may improve your current mental state to confront the source of your stress. Please proceed to the training facility, John Allerdyce."

----

John certainly had a response to that bold statement, but he resisted. There really was no point in getting enraged at the emotionless machine. Instead he just took a breath and crossed his arms once again. This entire conversation was pointless. Surely the machine knew John had no interest in helping. He could only wonder when were they going to just give up trying and kill him.

Then, without warning, the door to John's tiny prison opened. "Perhaps you would like to meet him? It may improve your current mental state to confront the source of your stress. Please proceed to the training facility, John Allerdyce."

John stood speechless as he looked toward the door. Was this some sort of joke? Did a machine even understand the concept? Even if it wasn't intentional, the words the faux-Miranda spoke about the traitor being the source of John's stress were quite amusing. As if that was the only source. Still, he had been in that bleak, depressing room for a while and had plenty of time to think about what he'd do if he ever met the person who betrayed his group. It would be poetic justice if the Sentinels were going to just hand him over now, after he had done the same to his own allies, but that was likely wishful thinking.

"Funny you're so concerned about my mental state now, after letting me rot here for so long..." John finally uttered with a slight chuckle, "I don't know if you're trying to pull something but I guess I don't exactly have a whole lot to lose. So yeah, take me to him..."

With that, John walked out of the room.

----

As usual, John was led to the training room. When he entered, he was greeted with the familiar sight of a very large, but completely bare room. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all a pristine white, and made up of perfectly aligned squares. Similar to the Danger Room, this room was capable of holographic displays simulating any number of possible worlds. This was just about the only other room John was as familiar with as he was with his prison. Like before, a portion of the wall altered and transformed to reveal a monitor. It came on, and there once again was the false Miranda. "Welcome back to the training facility, John Allerdyce. In a moment, you will meet the one you have designated as a 'traitor,' " she remarked. Then, as if on cue, a portion of the ground on the opposite side of the room opened up. From it, a large tube emerged, rising straight up and stopping once it had almost touched the ceiling.

"I find the use of the term 'traitor' as inaccurate, however. It implies that this unit was on your side. This was not the case. He was always mine," she continued, as the front of the tube opened up like an elevator door. With heavy, and almost ominous, foot steps walked out a large and intimidating young man. He looked around, dazed and confused, and unfortunately for John, most of his features were obscured by the condensed air flowing out of his container. It wasn't like he needed to see though... having fought together for so long, there was no way he couldn't recognize Sanjit Hayes. "Jesus... what... what's going on? Where am I? J-John? John, is that you?" the young man said, looking around for answers, and suddenly finding the savior that was his old friend.

"Sentinel OX-0032. Humans also know his model as the 'Omega Sentinels.' Using nanomachines, we are capable of altering the biological make-up of a human being and change them, at least partially, into a machine. The human is left unaware of this alteration, and will follow their programmed imperatives without a second thought," Master Mold stated matter-of-factly, as a confused, but joyous Sanjit began to approach John. Unfortunately, their reunion would have to be cut short. "OX-0032, deactivate core personality. Enter ASSAULT mode."

Suddenly, Sanjit stopped dead in his tracks and completely froze. "Core personality deactivated. Assault Mode entered," Sanjit replied with startling monotony. Suddenly, his eyes began to glow red, and clean lines began to appear all over his body, making him look frighteningly artificial. "Mutant detected," he stated simply, and continued his gait towards John. The false Miranda 'looked' towards him as well. Although it was for only the briefest of seconds, and the most minute of changes, it almost seemed like the damn thing had smirked. "Will show us your power now, John Allerdyce?"

----

As John stepped into the other pure white room, he could only roll his eyes as the machine "welcomed" him back there. Before he could really ask where he was supposed to meet his former ally a portion of the ground on the opposite side of the room opened up. From it, a large tube emerged, rising straight up and stopping once it had almost touched the ceiling.

"I find the use of the term 'traitor' as inaccurate, however. It implies that this unit was on your side. This was not the case. He was always mine," she continued, as the front of the tube opened up like an elevator door.

John squinted at first as the mist partially obscured his view, but after a few moments there was really no denying who it was. "Jesus... what... what's going on? Where am I? J-John? John, is that you?" Sanjit asked in confusion. John shook his head in disbelief before looking over to the monitor.

"Explain this bullshit." He growled, almost as if he had an authority to order an answer out of the machine.

"Sentinel OX-0032. Humans also know his model as the 'Omega Sentinels.' Using nanomachines, we are capable of altering the biological make-up of a human being and change them, at least partially, into a machine. The human is left unaware of this alteration, and will follow their programmed imperatives without a second thought," Master Mold stated matter-of-factly, as a confused, but joyous Sanjit began to approach John. Unfortunately, their reunion would have to be cut short. "OX-0032, deactivate core personality. Enter ASSAULT mode."

John's gaze quickly darted back to Sanjit who halted in his advance. "God... damn it. There never was a traitor... It was you fucking robots the whole time." He uttered in defeat. Sanjit's eyes glowed as he monotonously voiced the detection of a movement while mechanically moving yet closer.

The false Miranda 'looked' towards him as well. Although it was for only the briefest of seconds, and the most minute of changes, it almost seemed like the damn thing had smirked. "Will show us your power now, John Allerdyce?"

A small cauldron of flame emerged in the middle of the training room, providing John with the catalyst he needed to bring his true strength to fruition.

"I'm not sure what powers you think I'm hiding, but I set things on fire, and I'm not doing that to him. You already know I could turn him to ash so this is a waste of time!" John shouted at the fake Miranda with urgency. If they could really control Sanjit completely, then they certainly could utilize his immense strength, which could snap the pyrokinetic in two without much effort. The machines would have no issue forcing Sanjit to burn himself if John just tried to protect himself with a barrier of flame, so the options were limited if an attack was imminent.

----

"Was he not the 'traitor' you sought?" Master Mold asked, almost expressing confusion with Miranda's face. Obviously, it still didn't understand the emotion very well. Nonetheless, it made no attempt to stop Sanjit, who continued to approach unabated. "OX-0032 seemed to have been the source of your stress. Why do you hesitate now? Is it because of who he was? Illogical. There is but only a fraction of programming in that A.I. that retains what you once knew as Sanjit Hayes, and it is only for the purposes of infiltration. If you do not defend yourself, then you may die, John Allerdyce," it warned. Sanjit's body then suddenly changed once again, his skin turning into something sturdier and stronger, and changing color into shades of blue and purple. It very clearly looked like armor, and the man he could call his friend suddenly looked like a smaller version of what had destroyed so much of what he knew.

"Mutant. Surrender," Sanjit remarked robotically, as he reached his hand out to seize John by the throat.

Of course the machine wouldn't understand. To it, there was only one logical solution to this situation: Kill Sanjit. And maybe it was right. Maybe Sanjit was too far gone and melting him quickly would be the best thing for him, but he couldn't be sure. Master Mold itself said there was still a part of him left, so if John killed Sanjit now there'd be no turning back and he'd only have himself to blame.

But what was the alternative? To die? John had considered suicide at a few points during his captivity if only to prevent the Sentinels from using him for any of their intentions, but he hated the idea of giving up so easily. What was different now? If he died, would Sanjit's situation really be any better? They'd still have him under their control, likely never returning to his old self.

Master Mold wanted to see the full potential of John's powers and he had refused until now. Was keeping the extent of his abilities a secret worth dying for?

As Sanjit reached out to grab John by the throat, the long-haired mutant quickly glanced to the side as a mass of flame suddenly emerged in both Sanjit and John's peripheral vision. The fireball hit Sanjit like a truck with a seemingly impossible force, causing him to fly into the side wall. As if that event wasn't confusing enough, the remotely-controlled mutant wasn't severely burned at all. He had managed to somehow change the flame's density to create a force of impact normally not possible for a mere chemical reaction, as well as drastically lowering the temperature to reduce the burning damage on contact. There was no telling if John had successfully knocked his opponent out, or if that was even possible while he was under the Sentinel's control, but he remained ready as the flame began to slowly orbit around him.

"Come on, Sanjit, don't let this thing beat you." John murmured. "Is that good enough?" He raised his tone, glancing back to the monitor with an angered glare.

"Fascinating, " Master Mold remarked while staring back John, noting the unique and remarkable use of his abilities. Never had it considered that his powers could be used non-lethally, and to such great effect. Although it was certainly easier to melt Sentinels, such power did have its uses. Sanjit had hit the wall with such force, that even the heavily fortified paneling had dented. However, the damage to the room only remained briefly, as it was suddenly and rapidly switched out with an undamaged panel. Sanjit, luckily, didn't seem to share the room's rapidly repairing nature. He remained inert on the ground for a moment longer, before beginning to stir. He groaned, like a human, before struggling back up. "D-Damn it. S-So that was it. That's why I've been feeling so... wrong all this time," John could hear him mutter, as he clutched his head. It seemed he was somehow conscious beneath the ASSAULT mode, if only to see and hear what horrible thing he could've done. The A.I. glanced over to him. "Unfortunate. The sharp blow forced his system to reboot, thereby causing the core personality to reactivate. A minor mistake I can now rectify in future models. It seems you have aided us twice. Thank you, John Allerdyce," Master Mold noted, with but the slightest hint of satisfaction.

"John! I-I'm sorry! I didn't know. I couldn't... couldn't do anything," Sanjit remarked with desperation, attempting to apologize for what he had no control over. As he did so, he managed to take note of his hands, which had briefly entered his vision when he spoke. Surprised, he looked at them, then the rest of his body. He was finally seeing the purple and blue monstrosity that he had been changed into. "W-What the hell did they do to me?" was all he could say before the false-Miranda spoke up, "OX-0032, enter STANDBY Mode." "Fuck yo-" Sanjit had tried to state defiantly, before he completely froze in place and mid-sentence. "You may return to your room, John Allerdyce," Master Mold remarked, as monotonously as ever.

----

John looked between the motionless Sanjit and the flame still ignited before him. A part of him wanted to utilize this chance to just blow a hole in the room, grab Sanjit and make a run for it. His fist tightened as the fire roared taller for a moment before he relaxed and looked toward what remained of his ally.

"Just give me some time to think. I'll find a way to fix this." He muttered under his breath before dispersing what flame he had still circling him. He made no acknowledgment towards the impostor who still had the nerve to use Miranda's face and silently returned to his room. As he arrived and the door sealed shut once again, John slammed his fist into the wall. All the time he had spent focusing on holding back just enough, and it was all for naught. The machines had won this round as he never accounted for them literally possessing one of his friends. Who knew such a thing was even possible when not using some sort of telepathy or puppeting power?

What he did know, however, was that he couldn't afford to sit around any longer. He had to get out and find a way to save Sanjit, as well as everyone else, from being completely assimilated by Master Mold. Just how he'd accomplish such a thing was the real question. Much thought had already been given to escape possibilities. There was no chance they'd just let him walk out even if he was able to melt Sentinels with ease. It was unlikely he could fend off an entire army of them which they likely had stationed at wherever they were holding him and now they were going to relentlessly analyze the new aspects of his power, so whatever ace he still had up his sleeve was gone.

It would be difficult, but even if it was suicide, an attempt would have to me made. It was better than wasting away in that awful room...
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Hana » Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:52 am

~ Whisper ~
~ Sector 15 - Shack in the middle of nowhere ~

Miranda paced around the rickety folding table that she'd set up in the middle of the room, the one that held the reproduction of the map she'd been shown. Her information was still sparse, though she had managed to find Mickey. He was here with her and Cora because she'd gone out of her way to find him. She knew that he was waiting for Azunka, and it made a little piece of her heart ache--a little for him, a little for Azunka, but mostly in jealousy, which she summarily ignored as she walked her circuit around the little island in the center of the room.

Mishap would join them soon, and then their little group would be complete. Miranda allowed herself the small sense of comfort that that knowledge brought--not because it would be anything like old times, or because of the reunion with old friends (specifically a second reunion with her best friend), but because she knew that in a situation against Sentinels, she was as useless as Cora would be useful. Her powers didn't work against them and unless they were using organics to do their dirty work, which she doubted, her primary function in this little shindig was to maintain tactical communication and locate their targets for pickup. A little part of her couldn't help but think that 'targets for pickup' sounded pretty damned cold, even for her, to be referring to her old classmates, but the other voice in her mind brushed it away, reminding herself that if she personalized them, then she might not be able to come out of it whole if they failed. She termed them that for the same reason that she refused to wonder which of her old classmates they were going to bust out. It was pure self-preservation.

Her eyes swept the map again as she turned her thoughts to more important matters, letting her mental projection screen light up with the image that had Azunka had relayed to her not so long ago. The small curious part of her brain wondered how the blond would know what such a facility would look like, but the voice was silenced by a host of logical possibilities. What mattered was whether the information was correct or not, not how it had been obtained. Azunka was the leader of her own group (here, she shoved another stab of jealousy down into the dark pit that she shoved all of her jealousy into) and wouldn't have imparted the visual if she didn't think it relevant to the situation. That was what was important.

She stopped pacing, tilting her head as she stared off into the distance for a moment, a faraway look on her face. The moment was fleeting, however, and the almost-peaceful look left her face as she dragged her gaze to look at Mickey, her lips twisting into an odd sort of expression that was half frown and half smirk.

"Hey, Mickey...Do me a favor and take a peek outside," she offered, wiping the look off of her face as she turned back to the map on the table. Despite how heartless she might want to be, Miranda still found herself unable to stop caring, and Azunka had always been her friend...it'd be crass to not let them have a little moment without prying eyes, even though she couldn't help but be privy to their minds. It would be best to have him waiting outside for her.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Karo » Tue Oct 04, 2011 3:55 am

~In the jungles of Cuba, Hisui~

It was getting dark. The jungle was quiet, and from the treetops the few lights left in Havanna could be seen shining from miles away. The humid nighttime air was heavy, almost as heavy as the mood of the solitary girl, hidden in the jungle. Hisui was alone, and she chose to be that way. Her passionate loyalty to the people around her had gotten a fair number of them killed, so it was better if she was on her own. And she would live, because death wasn't enough atonement for what she had done.

If Hisui listened carefully, she could hear the sounds of a refugee group getting ready to bed down for the night, several hundred yards away. Only one of them knew she was there, and that was because she couldn't fool his mutation, that allowed him to sense her even through her deepest illusions. Telekinetics wasn't something she even pretended to understand, so she assumed it was sort of like that sixth sense that some people have when someone else is standing behind them. They can feel that person there, without any sort of reasonable explanation as to how.

Of course, there was only one mutant who used his telekinetic powers in such a way, and that was the only reason why she had not kept herself hidden. She needed information about what had happened after that day, and Ben could give it to her. He had grown into quite the leader in the last six years, and his little band of people who disagreed with both Mutant Prime and Master Mold was who she was listening to now.

He would be coming soon, she knew, because he always came. Every night when the last of his group had fallen asleep, he came to see her. It was beneficial for the both of them, and that was all she would allow it to be. She wandered during the day, keeping her eyes and ears open for any cells of Mutant Prime followers in the area, or for a supply run from Mickey. He hadn't been around in a while, but from his previous visits, Hisui doubted that the Irish boy would be stopping by any time soon. Ben would be happy to know that all had been quiet in their little corner of the jungle. But it always was. Any Mutant Prime follower who wandered into the jungle quickly found their dazed way back into Havanna, muttering nonsense as they went. They realized that someone was out there, but they could not fight what they could not find, which made things all the easier for Hisui. Plus the fact that they sent the weak-minded ones out into the jungle to scout made Hisui's work that much easier. She already had a few thoroughly convinced that a tribe of 12 foot tall, bipedal purple panthers were living in the jungle outside the city, waiting to eat whomever wandered out of the safety of the ruins of the town. A few of the mutants flat out refused to set foot amongst the trees for anything after that one, which was exactly how she had wanted it.

But now was not the time for appreciating her past handiwork. The Primers (she had nothing better to call them, really) had been quiet the last few days, which meant that something was up. It was likely that Ben was going to need to move his group to a new location in the morning, to remain as effectively hidden as they had been. Cuba was the first place they had come to where they had been able to rest after constantly being on the run, which was why Hisui remained vigilant. Even if she had to work alone, she would do what she could to keep anyone else from dying.

But now it was time for her to get a little rest as she waited for her usual meeting with Ben. She watched the clearing below her, waiting to see his familiar dark head appear from amongst the dense undergrowth. She was hiding up a tree, a thick web of illusions hiding her in plain sight as a clump of leaves on a branch that wouldn't exist for a few more years at least. She shifted slightly, moving the small green bough that had been poking her in the back in the process. Now in a much more comfortable position, she began memorizing every detail of the little clearing, to keep her thoughts out of the past.
Zath: Behold, Karo: The only woman in existence who can make Fenix shut the fuck up.
Redsnow: That, and, frankly, if Karo doesn't like you that much, your character is probably going to die soon after his acceptance anyway.
Keiran: Bad RPs don't get picked, unmemberable RPs get ignored.
Zelosse: I don't usually laugh at blatant attitude, but when I do. It usually involves Karo.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby aj_gatsz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:20 am

~Snap; Cuba, lurking in the shadows~

How difficult is to track someone down years after he is gone? Almost impossible, unless the person is stirring, getting a reputation and is in the process of becoming a legend. Most predators are instinctively good at hiding, and are very patient; otherwise they starve to death. Snap learned how to trust his instincts; how to lay low motionless for hours, how to hide almost inches from his prey or a possible threat, how to eavesdrop people talking around campfires. Campfires are the places about stories, stories about heroes; people who refuse to back down, who survive against all odds; they provide example and hope the source of strength to carry on for many people. Cornelius moved from camp to camp, listened night by night, until a familiar name came up. A name is like a scent, one can track it down in the forest of tales, stories and gossip. Psychal.

Cuba, the scent was quite strong. The stories and tales became news and reports. He was here. Getting to the island wasn’t easy, but possible. Spending days in crates, hiding among barrels, or hanging from the hull of the ship just above the waterline, constantly dodging the crew. Snap liked the jungle, plenty of places to hide and game to hunt. Moving in a big city he would be on a sever disadvantage, but in the jungle he felt like home. But the jungle was strange, he became lost. He was never lost since his second birth, especially not in a natural environment. But he trusted his instincts, hid and waited. Hours passed and finally the scenery changed; the tree what wasn’t supposed to be there vanished. And of course there were the purple panthers. Snap saw them a few times as they fought some other mutants, but he kept hiding and stayed out of sight. And one day he saw her.

He kept visiting her every night, late when she was already asleep. He kept hiding on a tree, and watching her from the distance until the morning came. He never dared to get close, afraid to wake her, scare her or even worse realizing, that she wasn’t it at all.

Tonight he finally got his courage together; he will get closer, and will leave even a gift. Something to show her, that she isn’t alone and there is someone who cares for her. Today’s hunt was successful. Snap only ate half of the capybara, gutted and cleaned the rest the best he could with his claws and teeth. Usually he waited till late into the night, but tonight his excitement got the best of him. He moved toward Hitsui’s camp from tree to tree, and stopped at the safe distance he used to. She wasn’t there, that seemed odd. Snap flattened against the branch he was sitting on, hiding among the vegetation, with the piece of bloody carcass in one hand, and surveyed the surrounding for quite some time. His tongue moved in and out as he patiently took in every detail. Then he noticed it. Some heat radiated from a branch at the other side of the clearing. The heat was there, but only the branch could be seen. It was her, but hiding. Why? Was there danger around? Snap slowly moved his limbs, pulling his arms and legs under himself, ready to jump if necessary.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Silver Samurai » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:40 am

[Previously at Sector 33, heading back to Latveria]

"They are late," commented by a man armed in some sort of a black soldier uniform brought the attention of his other teammates. One would noticed that the few members were dressed almost like him, except one particular feminine figure who seated on a huge rock a short distance away. Clad in all black; her body a black skintight suit which leaves no imagination to the curves beneath the layer though she wore the same sort of gas mask over her face, just like the rest, to conceal their faces from view. An adult canine stood beside the female, all alert with his eyes scouring around the scene.

Another female, though garbed just like the rest of the soldiers, then retorted to the man earlier, "Do you think they would care about punctuality? Furthermore, we are in their territory, so they must be having it rough to even come to this place."

"Be quiet. They're here."

Both the female and male soldier turned to the feminine figure in the skintight suit, now ushered to silence before the one they called as 'Vision' begun to stand from the rock as a few vehicles drove up to the foot of the small hill. Before long, a bunch of people gathered in front of the smaller yet better armed soldiers as Vision then slowly walked forward, to meet with the 'leader' of the resistance team. She spoke in a polite and calm manner as she greeted the leader with a small handshake, "I am glad you were able to make it to this destination. I made certain that this location would be difficult to locate, even on air."

Soon, the leader of the resistance and Vision begun discussing among themselves, though the her teammates were alert during this whole time. Fortunately, for them, seemed that the resistance accepted the 'generosity', consisting mostly of food and water supply, and even some weapons were provided. Negotiations were made and before long, the black armored soldiers along with Vision ascended up on their transport back to their 'home'.

The jet plane then begun to lift from the grounds into the sky, though of course, making certain there weren't any threats nearby to take a lift off. The armored soldiers started to comment between one another, about being able to return to Latveria. As for Vision though, she could only think was that when they finally touched down at Latveria, she was going to be getting some needed shower and perhaps some rest after that. Letting her other comrades chitchat among each other, she remained silent throughout the way though occasionally patting the top head of her pet Dobermann. Hopefully the trip would be a short one.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Fellguarde » Tue Oct 04, 2011 3:06 pm

[Mount Kailash]

Madras flashed past him. He was in a forest. He was standing upon the edge of a cliff. He was skulking through catacombs under Jerusalem. He was wandering the cedars, like Gilgamesh. The floorboards under his feet groaned beneath his weight, crawling with decay. All the chairs and the tables were heaped with dead cobwebs. The Xavier Institute was a world of dust and ash, and through the windows he could see nothing but strange, formless shadows, their fingers and spires trailing black smoke. He pushed past the trees and looked back at the way he’d come, and the whole world was a house of cinders and shadows; the trees grey and thin, the sky choked, the earth parched. He looked down at the egg in his hand, and at his touch it split open, the yoke spilling out over the world, washing away the dust. It was cool, like water. But it was fire.

Hiram opened his eyes.

It was early. The air smelled of rising vapour, and somewhere outside a bird was calling. He blinked, and stared at the thoroughly stained fabric overhead, and finally clambered to his knees, edging his way out of the tent.

The snow closed in around his boots (he’d slept in them. It was far too cold not to). It must have risen a little overnight. His jacket – which was getting a bit rancid, now that he gave it some thought – was still over his shoulders, too. He trudged a little further out, letting the new day fall around him.

The sky over Mount Kailash was a clear, cold blue, the only clouds in sight clustered upon the very edge of the horizon, like a great, grey mist that separated the mountain from the rest of the universe. The world here was bright and flawlessly simple, like the light of a diamond. Blue over his head, white at his feet. If he stayed up there long enough, he mused, then perhaps he’d forget than any other colours existed at all.

He squinted and stared down upon the world below, at row upon row of stupas standing in ancient ranks. Last night, there had been lights burning down there. Refugees, perhaps. Or exiles. Pilgrims used to come in droves, but few people ever ventured under the shadow of Shiva’s rock to pray anymore. Mostly it was just the homeless now. He’d seen a few small communities take up residence among the old stones, occasionally for months at a time. Sometimes they were quite amiable.

The bird called again, and he was reminded of his companion. He hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning, which meant he was good for a day or two, but she would be hungry soon. He shuffled back through the snow to retrieve his hunting rifle, digging it out from under a pile of old rags. Inevitably, when the refugees moved on, things got left behind. It was all trash, pretty much, but when the wood from further down was too wet it served well enough as fuel for a fire.

Out of habit, he patted one of his jacket pockets. Only twelve rounds left. Maybe the squatters at the base of the mountain would have more. He still had a few things left to trade.

He headed out towards the lower reaches, where the nests tended to be, and the vast whiteness of the snow took him off into the deep end of thought.

He had found his companion foraging amongst garbage. She had been alone, unkempt, and entirely unintelligible – the last two still held true to a certain degree, of course, but currently Hiram, with his million-year-old jacket and matted hair, was in no position to be judging anyone in regards to etiquette or hygiene. Hiram wasn’t particularly sure what had compelled him to bring her along with him. Her life was wasted amidst the refuse of a dead city, but she had been surviving well enough there. Could she survive as well with him?

He supposed he’d bet on ‘yes’. With good reason, hopefully. In a strange, inverted way, she reminded him of a certain Wiseman.

Wiseman… that had been a long time ago. He hadn’t seen him since –There!

A winged shape fluttered over his head. The mottled shades of its feathers identified it as a snow partridge – not particularly big, but he wasn’t hunting for two.

He brought the rifle to bear as it began to slow in the aftermath of an ascent. The shot barked out over the mountain, and it hit the snow with a soft, ethereal thump.

By the time the clarity of early morning had faded it was roasting over a fire.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Glacier » Tue Oct 04, 2011 4:05 pm

-( The jungles of Cuba )-

Dusk was upon them and per the agreed upon policy, they went to bed with the sun. While the majority of his resistance cell consisted of women and children, a few other mutants and men were among the bunch as well. The day was uneventful for the most part. Everyone did their part from simple foraging, to hands on training, and/or scouting the area. Everyone had a duty to fulfill and no matter how small the task, each person was vital and Benjamin made sure to acknowledge their efforts and keep them motivated. Despite the monotony that was pure survival, the occasional run-in with ‘Primers’ and the even rarer Sentinel spotting added a little spice and an all too real reminder to the group in their daily fight for a free life. They were the lucky ones; at least that’s how Ben chose to see it. No matter how dark things got, he had hope for a brighter future. Despite the world going to hell in a gasoline soaked wicker hand basket lined with dry grass; One day Master Mold and the death camps would be shut down and Mutant Prime would be defeated or sealed once more. He had to keep that small glimmer alive as best he could.

The concept of time was basically a blur to him at this point. He lived day by day with the rising and setting of the sun. To keep track of the days passing he’d make a tick mark in his log book. No matter how the days went, each one ended about the same. Benjamin stayed up in watch over them all throughout the night, the ever vigilant sentry. Only after Ben was certain nothing dangerous was close enough to discover them throughout the night would he go on patrol and check traps set up along the perimeter for signs of intrusion. While he was out, he was sure to make time to visit an old friend. She had an everlasting open offer to join them if she so chose, but Ben wasn’t one to press the issue. She could fend for herself well enough, and was never too far if she did need assistance.

The camp only lit fires to eat something that needed cooking, and when he left, he made sure to take a single torch and put the fire out. Despite his eyes having adjusted quite well to the darkness by now, he was still human and needed light to get through the heavy jungle they resided in. While he could use his powers to navigate, he never knew when danger would come blasting down their doors, so he learned to use them when actually needed for the most part. It was time for his daily rounds. With torch in one hand and a machete in the other, he set out to secure the perimeter and see if anyone had gotten too close for comfort. It didn’t take long to check the area for he knew where everything was from base camp. They’d had the luxury of resting for a lengthy period of time there.

When the business was finally over, Ben closed his eyes and used a version of soft TK as radar to find the one who was no doubt awaiting his arrival. With her position fresh in his mind, Ben made a b-line straight for Hisui and stopped at the base of the tree she was hiding in. He knocked once on the bark to notify her of his arrival if the hacking of the machete wasn’t enough.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Aneri » Tue Oct 04, 2011 6:36 pm

-Azunka-
-Sector 15, near shack in the middle of nowhere-

She can do this.

It was like some kind of broken record. She just heard it, over and over in her head. I can do this, I can do this. Sometimes it wasn't even just in her voice. Sometimes it was... no. She needed to do this. It doesn't matter if she can, because she is.

It was a relief to get away from Philly for a while. Since her return, people have been a little odd around her. She supposed it was because she was a little odd around them, but she couldn't help and feel slightly guilty for refusing to take over again. She saw the relief on Robert's face at not having to give up his newfound position just because she's suddenly back in town. But she also saw the looks of disappointment the others gave her, clearly valuing her because of her powers. She knew, obviously, that Robert was doing a great job as a leader. It was just that pesky, human quality of his that made him less aggressive against the Sentinels. She reluctantly offered to help out, and was thankfully saved from actually leading one when Miranda contacted her.

Of course, her issue would not be magically appeased by breaking into this compound. At the moment, it seemed like a welcome excuse. She couldn't go out and fight, be responsible for others, especially those without powers, when she had a mission to go on. Something sounding official. Even as she mentally accepted, however, she was already thinking about where she was held two years ago. She was already almost hyperventilating at the thought of going back to one of those places, and it was even worse. It was bigger, it was different. She didn't have a clear idea of a floor plan, or a location, but she did have a likely idea of what it would look like. Master Mold, she imagined, wasn't a very creative architect. That little lack of human touch made all the difference in her projection of what an Instillation would look like, rather than a District holding facility. She hesitated, too. She knew Miranda could tell. She hesitated on accepting, for so many reasons that have been running through her mind ever since she agreed. Ultimately, she had to say yes. There was no other way that she could have answered a request for help from her best friend.

She also knew that Mickey would be here. She'd seen his four leaf clover mark on battery packs for a couple of months, but she couldn't bring herself to answer with her own mark until a few weeks ago. She was both really scared and really anxious to see him again. It's been so long, and last time they were together had been such a happy memory that kept her going while she was imprisoned. She felt guilt, and she hated the emotion. She had been feeling it for so long, for so many reasons, that she struggled to think of a time when it wasn't on her mind at least once a day. She couldn't decide if she should tell the man about the last two years in detail, or if she should gloss over it, if she should keep most of it to herself because none of it mattered anymore.

And Miranda... Azunka knew her friend would never actively invade her mind, but this mission requires Whisper to be inside of her head. So Azunka would have to focus, or her thoughts might become too much of a distraction, both to herself and to Miranda. She couldn't risk putting the other girl in danger in any way.

“Alright, Azunka, this is fine. This is all fine. You're just going on the offensive.” She muttered to herself while walking, focusing on long and steady breaths. “This will all be completely fine, because you'll be with other people who really know what they're doing. Who can take care of themselves. You won't need to protect them. You won't be responsible if...” she stopped, closing her eyes. Even she didn't believe what she was trying to say next. “You'll work as a team. Just like old times,” she started up again. Her breathing was slower, her thoughts more focused, and her feet had carried her to the meeting spot, the small shack straight ahead of her. She smiled with apprehension at seeing her friends. Will they ask a lot of questions? Her outfit, her regular baggy cargo pants and stack of two tank tops, a hoodie and a leather jacked two sizes too big on her frame showed nothing that should cause them concern. The scars she had, new and old, were slathered across her back and upper arms and legs. There was one on her neck, curving around from the back of her shoulder to the bottom of her jaw on the right side of her body. She also knew there was a very deliberate bump on her nose that hadn't been there before. She had broken it, twice, in the last two and a half years. Her hair, of course, and she supposed that would be the first thing they noticed. It took her an extra moment to remember that she was missing two fingers on her left hand. It had happened half a year ago, and for a while she was specifically, painfully reminded of it. She's learned to accept it now, especially during a fight or a delicate situation, but when she's like this, lost in thought... it's almost like they're still there. She took her left hand into her right and rubbed the two short stubs at the end of it.

When she looked towards the shack again, the door opened. She immediately recognized the figure that emerged as Mickey. She began walking slightly faster, waving with her left hand and completely forgetting how easily her missing ring and pinky finger would be to spot as she did that. She wondered if she would be easily recognizable too. Her hair was different, her posture was more slouched as if to make herself smaller. She still seemed skinny underneath all those clothes, perhaps skinnier than before. She wanted to call out to the man, but she wanted to be closer first. She smiled at him, now being able to clearly see his face, and if he was unsure of who she was before, that very familiar smile would've confirmed her identity. “Mickey,” she said when she was within earshot. She stopped walking, letting him see her, not be scared by her. Recognize her. Come to her.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby BG07 » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:05 pm

-Clover-
=Sector 15=

Mickey was for all intents and purposes a complete nervous wreck as he sat impatiently on a chair in the corner of the shack. His leg was bouncing up and down as if he couldn't bear to keep himself still, anxiety was pouring out of his whole body as he uncomfortably shifted about every few moments. Piled beneath his chair was a graveyard of cigarette butts, some of which were still smoldering even after he had stamped them into smithereens under his heavy boots. He couldn't seem to stop himself from lighting up one after another, trying in vain to calm himself down with the nicotine rush. There were more than a few reasons for the man feeling the way that he did, mainly the fact that Azunka was supposed to be arriving within a relatively short time. It had been almost two years since he had last seen or heard from the girl, far too long of a time for him to feel comfortable with.

He had been fine with their previous way of communication, leaving symbols with dates on them to indicate to each other that they were both fine, that they were both still alive. Every time he found a clover sketched onto the side of a pack of batteries it would put his mind at ease, it was a rather simple but effective method of doing things. However two years ago he stopped finding those symbols, later finding out that Azunka had disappeared when he was finally able to ask the resistance group that she was in charge of about what happened. It had hit the man hard knowing that she had gone missing like that, he did his best to try to find the girl with what little resources he had but it was to no avail. He could only search for so long before he was forced to attend to his other duties, continuing to bring fresh supplies to those who were in need. The man never stopped leaving symbols of his own however, partly out of habit but mostly because he didn't want to give up hope that she was still out there somewhere.

Mickey would have never thought that wishful thinking could actually ever pay off for him, but one day it did. He had to double check the date on the box with several people before he actually could bring himself to believe it, but it was definitely a message from Azunka. It was hard for the man not to be just a little bit skeptical about things, unsure if whether it was some kind of fluke or if Azunka was really the one who sent the message. It was around the time that he found that particular box of batteries when Miranda had contacted him about needing some help. There was no way that Mickey would have been able to refuse helping a former classmate from the institute, especially since she had mentioned that Azunka would also be joining in on their mission. The man took a heavy drag on his last cigarette, finishing it off just in time for Miranda to ask him to take a look outside. He dropped the cigarette onto the ground and smashed it with the heel of his boot just like all the rest.

"Yeah... I was thinkin' the same thing." the man said with a smile on his face, exhaling the smoke as he pulled himself out of his chair slowly. Honestly he just needed to get up and move around a bit, all of the anxiety that had been building up for the last two years was now bubbling up to the surface. The man hadn't stepped two feet outside before he noticed something moving in the distance, the figure of a woman approaching the shack. It took him a moment to realize just who it was, her hair was different from before and there were other finer details that had changed from what he remembered, but it was most definitely her. There were so many things that the man wanted to know, so many answers that he needed, but right then he had confirmed the most important thing of all, she was alive. Mickey started walking slowly, gradually picking up pace until he was right on top of the girl with his arms instantly wrapping her into a tight hug. He closed his eyes and held onto her for dear life, feeling tears building up as he almost lifted the girl into the air from how he was holding her.
"Don't... don't do that again, ok?" the man said with broken laugh, one that made it very obvious that he was crying because of how happy he was.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby TheLivingCouch » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:58 pm

-Location Unknown: “Dreaming A Dream”-

Franklin sat at a desk in the back of a nondescript classroom. The room was eerily quiet the other students hunched over their desks hard at work. A half finished test sheet sat before him, questions begging to be answered. He pinched at the corners of his eyes ready for this to just be done and over with already. The constant droning ‘TICK’ ‘TICK’ ‘TICK’ of the clock on the wall was enough to drive a guy mad. With a heavy sigh Franklin picked up his pencil once more and began to write. It wasn’t long before the school bell rang signaling an end to things. Franklin let his head thud against the desk. “Alright class, time to turn in your papers.” The teacher’s voice was hauntingly familiar. He paused for a moment as a memory tried to bubble its way to the surface. Franklin pushed it off, grabbed his test and shuffled up to the teacher’s desk. “Did you have fun?” Asked the haunting voice as he handed over his test. Franklin’s heart stopped in that moment. He had looked up to see someone who shouldn’t have been there, couldn’t have been there. The face of Rosalie Mandrake greeted him. She was standing there, cheery smile on her face, alive and well as if nothing had ever happened. She was supposed to be dead, long dead.

“No.” Franklin replied flatly, angrily. He threw the test paper at the vision’s face and stomped himself right out of the classroom. As much as he tried Franklin could not completely escape his own memories. Every so often they bubbled to the surface tormenting him with images of friends long since dead and lost to him. Sometimes they came just as Rosalie had, sudden and unassuming. Others spoke to him as if they really had been there. Some reminisced with him, some broke him down yelling and screaming picking apart every action he ever made. Others yet still came to him with sadness and regret wishing for him to do nothing other than wake up. Sometimes he listened and argued back, while other times he banished the visions back to the depths of his mind. It was nothing more than a trick, his own buried emotions coming back to haunt him. They came as reminders of the world he left behind, a world he did not want to be reminded of. That world held nothing him anymore. Everything there was gone; the Institute, the Professor, his friends and teammates, his parents, his life, gone, all gone. Here he could do anything, be anyone, and live any sort of life imaginable. Franklin longed for nothing more than to forget, to finally settle into the idea that his dream world was the real one, and that the post apocalyptic nightmare he left behind was the dream, a waking nightmare from which he had finally woken up. His own mind though, simply wouldn’t let him.

Franklin passed through the door into another world entirely. He found his disembodied self in a humungous underground cavern. Below the cavern ceiling lay the remains of a bombed out mega-city long since buried. Franklin smiled inwardly. This was more like it. A six ton ATV rolled through the dark city streets seemingly the only thing about. It rolled along, making a right at a fork in the road only to stop when fallen debris blocked their path. One by one the passengers began to emerge eager to stretch their legs after a long trip. The first to emerge was a tall Russian man clad in thick brown armor reminiscent of an insect carapace. He bore a displeased expression at having to stop. Next to emerge was an energetic looking cat girl, followed by a studious looking yet well endowed woman.

“You made another wrong turn didn’t you Vlad.” Said the cat girl to the Russian as she examined the debris in their path. Vlad huffed but said nothing. “Whatever, I’m going to take a look around.”

Franklin enjoyed this particular dream of his. He had been dreaming it for a long time part by part by part in small serial installments. The three dunderheads in the ATV always seemed to land themselves in some sort of trouble whether they wanted to or not. He got excited when they finally noticed the giant robots that had been stalking them from the shadows moments before they opened fire. Franklin may or may not have placed them there himself. Vlad and the woman, Sebeme took off in the ATV while the cat girl managed to commandeer one of the robots, ejecting the pilot with a single thought.

“Strap yourself in it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” Vlad yelled as he made a hasty u-turn and throttled the thing full speed down the road.

“Oh come on, couldn’t you think of anything better?” Even Franklin had to laugh at the cliché line.

“Shut your face. I’m the one… shit!” The ATV swerved, just barely avoiding a flurry of missiles streaking right past their side, ripping up the road in front. It took some doing but they eventually found a burned out building in which to bunker down while the cat girl, Shakira, battled it out against one of the giant robots on the other side of the city. A third robot however was still searching for them. If they didn’t act fast they would be found. Vlad did the best thing he could in the situation, something dangerous and stupid. It was a specialty of his. The Russian took his last remaining grenade and hurled it as far as he could. It exploded, drawing the robot’s attention which immediately began to rain fire upon its position. While it was suitable distracted he opened the back hatch of the vehicle and from it produced a young and able workhorse. He mounted the animal and rode out against the mechanical monstrosity. Vlad leveled his laser rifle and nailed the thing in the back of the knee, rounding a building before it could bring its weapons to bear. He played cat and mouse with the thing long enough for Shakira to return and blow its targeting systems to kingdom come. Their opponent now blind and deaf the pair quickly finished off their opponent and began salvaging what parts they could.

Franklin watched the whole thing from above with a giddy grin. What did he need the world for when he could watch events like this play out like a movie whenever he wanted? This was the life.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby BobSagat » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:58 pm

[Mount Kailash]

Tag did not think highly of mountain life, but she did not dislike it, either. The air was thinner, the winds were harsher and more than anything else, it was cold. It took her only an hour to get used to it and now it was as if she had lived on Kailash all her life.

The man (He-ram? His name always slipped Tag's mind even after she had spent a week living with the man) had given her boots and woolly clothes to deal with Mount Kailash. Tag didn't bother with most the clothes, the bulk of them constricted her like a vise, but the boots were invaluable. Her footing had never been surer and on the mountain that meant life or death. Wearing her prized boots, an oversized turtleneck and a woolly pair of pants, Tag made her way to what she knew to be breakfast.

The smell was cooked bird, if Tag were anyone else she might have been watering at the mouth, but to the alley girl food only meant filling the void in her stomach. And like a true predator, there was never enough to fill Tag for long.

Tag made her way to the fire and did not thank the man for the food, she did not even look at him as she grabbed the bird from the firepit and sunk her teeth into the barely-cooked meat. The fire had burned and the oil that dribbled down with each bite seared Tag's chin and fingers, but she tore into the bird undeterred. It was not long before the meat had been stripped clean and the bones sucked dry of marrow.

Finally, Tag looked up to her benefactor whose name she never bothered to remember and spoke for the first time that day.

"More?"
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Karo » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:20 am

命❀~In the jungles of Cuba, Hisui~❀命

Hisui clearly saw Ben coming, and had heard him some time before. The machete and torch were dead giveaways to the young man's location. She waited as he looked around a bit, looking for her. When he knocked on the tree, Hisui removed her illusion and jumped down from the tree, landing in the dirt next to Ben. She ran a hand through her hair, and turned her brown eyes on her former teammate.

"Good evening, Ben." Her voice was much deeper than it used to be, croaking slightly from serious disuse. Hisui had spent four of the last six years without speaking a word to anyone, and had barely spoken to Ben in the last two. It was amazing that she had retained any of her English skills at all.

Now that Hisui was no longer hidden by illusions, the other young mutant watching her would see the differences from the young girl he remembered. Her once short, sleek hair was now long and dull, and frayed, not unusual considering their circumstances, but as the most obvious difference it would probably be the first of a series of ideal-shattering differences. The second thing he would notice was her form. Once at the peak of athleticism, Hisui had been a rather well-toned girl, but now she was thin almost to the point of looking unwell. A thin layer of muscle had began to form again, but it gave her a more wiry appearance than she had previously had. But the most startling by far would be the change in her eyes. Once they had held the confident, vibrant passion that the girl had been known for among their peers, but that look had been shattered long ago. Her face held a much more world-weary feel, her eyes almost hollow and lifeless. Snap had seen her sleeping, her only respite that made her look like the girl she had been. In his first time seeing her awake, it was likely to be quite the shock.

Ben, however, would be used to the girl's appearance now, just as she was to his. She had two years to get used to the changes, from the handsome young boy to the rugged leader he now was. Had she been in any other situation, Hisui might have been attracted to some of the changes in her old teammate, but with the blood on her hands, she felt she had no right to that sort of happiness. It was a completely ludicrous idea to be sure, but it was her fault that so many of her fellow students had died all those years ago, and she needed to pay for that. SO there she stood, in the company of an old friend but utterly alone at the same time, waiting for him to address her before she informed him of the suspicious lack of Primers venturing into the jungle over the last two days.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Vouvray » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:44 pm

= Victor Mancha = Off the Coast of Sector 8 =

It was cold and suffocating. Victor generally did not make such obvious observations, but cold was something relatively foreign to the Californian-raised cyborg. And Sector 8 was still California, no matter what the hulking terrors tried to do to it. The suffocating came and went with the cold, but if he raised his head a bit, he could still breathe without obstruction.

His right shoulder hurt - but this was a pain he recognized; it was a dull ache that came from his shoulder having relocated itself. It also meant that he had dislocated his shoulder, and he had a very good idea about how he had managed that. He vaguely remembered what had happened and felt his cyborg heart twist just slightly right as he fell back into unconsciousness.


*Yesterday* - North of Former San Francisco -

Victor carefully moved aside a door plank to one of his "safehouses" dotted along the former-Californian Sector 8 coast. The house was abandoned, as a matter of course, and the squalor it was marked with matched the adjoining dilapidation of the houses on its cul de sac. The inside was no better, Victor knew, but the basement could be used for a quick place to stay for a night on his way north of San Francisco. The dirtier the better - it meant no refugee squatters would choose his place over the more luxurious houses along the coasts, and less squatters around meant less Sentinel sweeps.

He carefully placed the door plank down on the floor and reached touched the doorknob. His hand glowed briefly as he aligned the pins in the lock to get it open and opened the door, replacing the doorplank behind him as he stepped inside. It was dark, dank, and smelled like cat piss, but he ignored the cluttered interior as he made his way over fallen furniture towards the basement. He opened a wardrobe, and then opened the hatch door that peeked from the backless wardrobe and made his way into the basement.

Unlike the rest of the house, the basement was neat and organized, with a couple beds and shelves lined with food. Most importantly, there was an electric stove, and Victor had lined the ceiling of the basement with an insulating material to keep signs of heat from being detected too easily. A warm meal, from cans or not, was something of a huge morale booster for refugees, who were often too scared to light their own fires and be detected by a Sentinel making rounds.

Refugees like the two children, a boy and a girl aged around twelve, who had been pointing a gun at him since he had opened the trap door. They relaxed as they saw it was Victor by the small lamp he had allowed them, and lowered the gun. He closed the trap door behind him and made his way down the stairs.

The children were mutants who had followed the clues he had left to point his way. They had been waiting at one of the safehouses, jumpier than rabbits, and looked as if they had been through hell. Which they probably had. Neither had said anything, but he could more or less understand - it was the story of almost all the mutant children he had lead out of Sentinel lands. They had manifested their powers while living in Sentinel-sponsored areas - sometimes the sensors didn't pick up dormant x-genes. It meant death or worse, no questions asked. So they, and probably whoever had been taking care of them, ran. And were hunted.

People had sacrificed themselves for these children, Victor knew, people they loved, but they had had to live and survive on their own for the longest time as well. Larger refugee communities took one look at their snow-white hair and found them liabilities as mutants just coming into their powers. They needed to leave.

"You guys hungry?" he asked, picking up a can from the shelf. It was unmarked, but he could feel something inside move when he shook it. The expiry date was within the day, however, so it had to be eaten.

"Tonight we'll be having Mancha surprise," said Victor as he pretended to plug the electric stove into the car battery he had recharged, covertly, earlier in the day. He took out his laser gun, a modified Starktic Spyder, changed the settings into a thin, continuous beam, and opened the can. Beans.

As he set the can down on the electric stove, he began to get bowls and spoons for the mutants behind him. Setting the bowls and spoons down, he sat on the empty bed across from them and said, "It's the last stretch, you two. Tonight's going to be nice and cloudy and I've made contact with the boat that'll take you guys away. Did you gather your things like I told you?"

They nodded, simultaneously. Victor had been guessing that they possessed some level of combined telepathy, but they had shown him telekinetic ability when he had asked them to prove they were mutants. Of course, the first thing he had done was berate them for that. "Never show what your powers. Out there, in here, it doesn't matter."

"Do you have the money to pay the boa-" he coughed. He hated saying, "Pay the boatman." "Did you pack the money I told you to?"

They nodded again.

"And when do you give the money?"

"After we land and meet Mr. Jack," they said, again simultaneously.

He nodded. He had met "Jack" once - the man was scum but he would take mutants away from Sentinel lands - either to places like Hawaii, or even Mutant Prime controlled lands somewhere south. For a price, of course, but he did the job. The man knew what Victor could do to him if it ever went the wrong way.

"And when are you going to send me that message?" he asked.

"In twenty-five days," they said.

"Good. It'll take the while - that boat doesn't know how to run the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs," he said, and began to spoon the beans into the bowls. He handed it to them. "But she's sturdy enough to have been doing this job for two years now, so you'll be alive by the end of it."

He took out a couple bottles of water he had run through a filter earlier, and handed those to the mutant children as well. They ate hungrily - the one can wasn't much, but it would hold up until they were back in country where everything wasn't out to kill them.

VIctor didn't eat - he suspected he didn't really need to, but he was running low on supplies anyway and he had been contacted about another refugee that would need transport soon, and that would take another couple days. He needed to be frugal.

A couple hours later, Victor had reboarded the house and the three left on foot, slowly making their way towards the shore where the boat would be docked. It took them a couple hours, but the mutant children didn't complain, which Victor was grateful for. He had kept a wide sweep of magnetic sensing going at all times, but he couldn't feel Sentinel or moving bits of metal, even as they neared the coast.

Finally, the boat, a small fisherman's boat, came into sight behind some rocks where it was anchored. Victor nodded to the boatman nudged the children forward. They suddenly jumped up to embrace him, which was so uncharacteristic from the two he had been with the whole week that he staggered backward briefly. Hugs felt good, he thought, and he had almost forgotten how much he craved human contact.

"Good luck," he said, patting their heads. He watched them run off towards the boat.

He almost didn't stop the bullet. It was a hundredth of a second that it would have taken to kill one of the twins, but it was as much time as he needed to pull the bullet towards himself, changing its trajectory enough to avoid the twins. The sounds came afterwards, and he could suddenly feel more bullets coming down upon them - the shooters had been just far enough to escape the range of his magnopathy. It had been planned. They had been waiting.

The mutant children had frozen in their tracks, horror coming upon their faces. He pushed on the metal on them, keeping them moving.

"Get to the boat!" he shouted. The shooting was slowing down, but something else was coming. He just barely dodged the teflon missile that zoomed past him and exploded in the sea, creating of fog of seaspray around them. Victor launched himself into the boat and began to push its metal forward, but teflon missiles were flying more and more often towards them. He fired back at the shooters with the laser he had dialed back up to maximum, using his own electromagnetic force to power it, but his enemies were still just out of range and cloaked in the treelines. Cursing, he drew his other weapon, loaded it with a bullet that had fallen onto the boat, and snarled, "Get down!"

The last time he had fired his railgun had been a year ago when he had inadvertently crossed paths with a sentinel while he was flying to his mother's grave. He hadn't defeated the Sentinel, but had gotten away by slowing it down enough so that he could fly to relative safety again. It was dangerous to fire it, both because the recoil would blow a normal human's arm off, and the juice and level of concentration required was absurd. But it did its job.

He fired it in the general direction of the majority of the bullets and heard satisfying groan of sheared and twisted metal.

He also missed the teflon missile that was coming in from the side.

The ship blew up, and he found himself falling into darkness.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Aneri » Wed Oct 05, 2011 3:10 pm

-Sector 15, Shack in the middle of nowhere-

The broken laugh was returned as her arms tightened around the man's neck, once again standing on her toes to give herself extra height for the hug. After a moment she let one of her hands travel up and place itself on top of Mickey's head, traveling down his hair and stopping at his neck. "I'm not planning on it," she said softly.

She stayed like that for a while longer, letting the hug seep in and enjoying the feeling. She finally broke the hug and backed away slightly to be able to look at Mickey. There was a smile on her face, and it seemed to be struggling with if it should be a happy or a slightly sad one. "I'm sorry I didn't..I didn't let you know I was ok sooner," she said, not meeting Mickey's eyes. "I needed to stay hidden for a while. I'm back now, though. And I don't plan on going away again." She wondered if he'd ask her about it. If she and him and Miranda and Hardcore would have a nice little chat about what's happened the past few years. She wondered if she'd be able to tell the story without emotion, now, knowing that Miranda would feel right through that to everything that'd be bubbling beneath the surface. She didn't think her friend would call her on it with the others right there, but would they have a conversation later, alone, a conversation that Azunka wouldn't be able to hide from.

She pushed those thoughts aside and looked at Mickey, her smile widening. She stood on her toes once more and gave the man a small kiss on the cheek, whispering "I've missed you," into his ear afterwards. She smiled at Mickey, and then glanced at the door he had come out of. "Should we go in?" She paused for a moment. "I mean, if there's any...anything you'd wanna ask. While it's just the two of us." She knew he probably had questions, because she did too. But hers could wait. He seemed good, he seemed healthy and happy to see her and that's all she needed, for now. But she couldn't expect him to feel the same way. She smiled reassuringly, trying to let him know that it's ok if he does have pressing questions, and that he should ask them.

Somewhere in the back of her mind Azunka knew that Miranda was probably feeling her presence. She tried, initially, to focus her mind and wash away the other emotions. But after a few moments, she decided it wasn't worth the effort yet, there was no need to close herself up right now, and she didn't want to make the other girl feel like Azunka was trying to hide something or didn't fully trust her. No, she would focus her thoughts when the mission began, and now she would only focus on her reunion with the people she cared about.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby sam4books » Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:07 pm

~*~*District 8 - Somewhere between Sectors 4 and 5*~*~

In what was formerly known as Skaggs Island
----Bridget Gibbson - You, Me, and the Water----

Every day was the same old thing. "Bridget, go get some food." "Bridget, be useful for once and scout the area." "Bridget, don't touch that." "Don't touch this." "Why don't you go help the kids gather sticks for the fire?" "Why don't you go outside and play or something?" It didn't matter WHAT she did, she was still treated like a child. Bridget Gibbson had been hiding out in an abandoned Naval Communication Station for five years now, five long tiring years. She has grown to hate the abundance of flies and fleas in these Californian sloughs, and the plethora of bug bites she has gotten on her legs, arms, and around her neck. It gave her much discomfort, as much as she tried not to touch her sensitive gills every now and then she was moved to itch a little scratch and it would cause her great pain. They had no doctors or nurses about, so it was recommended more than once that she left the itches alone, or else they would become infected. It irritated her greatly, and although she had learned to love the ability to broadcast her gills without a care, Bridget soon became forced to wear her scarf again.

Other than the fleas and flies, and the occasional alligator, the only thing that Bridget really disliked about living in the community was the people she lived with. They were nice, and patient, yes, but they just weren't the same as the friends she had before. They were either past the age of 21 or younger than she was. No one there was around her age, there was no one there she could talk about comic books with, or share stories about urban myth. She was alone, and bored out of her mind. Her only source of entertainment was an outdated gameboy with a cartridge for Pokemon Red. And its batteries were nearly about to die.

"Zeeeeeeeeeeeeeeke."
"Zeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeke."
"Hey, Zeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeke."

The living battery cringed at the sound of Bridget's nagging voice. The young lady had been there all afternoon, as if she had nothing else better to do. He had tried convincing her to go entertain the kids countless times before, but for some reason the girl wouldn't leave him to his peace. This was probably because he was one of their only sources of electricity in the small settlement. How else was Bridget going to capture all 151 Pokemon? "What?!" he demanded of his fellow mutant who laid lazily on her back, preoccupied with saving her game before the battery ran out.

Bridget turned off the green gameboy color and waved its back in Zeke's face. "You wouldn't mind recharging my batteries would you?" Zeke gave her the look, the "What do you think?" one. It's the one that irritated Bridget the most. Bridget frowned, "Come on! I am this close to being the Pokemon master!" For the five hundredth time, she didn't add.

Zeke sighed, "Dinner's going to be in a few hours. Perhaps you should go out and catch more fish in case we run out like yesterday." Bridget folded her arms in response. "Why can't we just have alligator for dinner? I hate those, they eat fish. And in case you guys haven't figured it out yet. I. Like. Fish." She put emphasis on those last few words, giving Zeke the iciest glare she could manage. Except he merely stared back calmly as if that didn't irritate her even more. Bridget rocked her head to the side, getting herself a quick gaze at the boxy contraption in Zeke's hands. "What are you doing that's so important anyways?" Zeke chose to completely dodge her question, settling on the decision to return to what he was supposed to be doing, "I'm doing my work" he responded. "Which is more than what I can say for you." In a last effort of defiance, Bridget dropped the gameboy next to him.

"Fine, but if all the fish in the animal kingdom start to hate me, at least I know who to blame." Zeke ignored her, and continued on with his work. He knew Bridget perhaps better than the rest of the mutants hiding out at Skaggs Island. She was impatient, yes, but he had the patience needed to deal with that sort of thing, and there were times where she was actually helpful in aiding him with his attempts to bring the station's telecommunications back online. The idea was to send a signal for help, preferably to a neutral community. In the mean time it was safe to say that they bonded quiet well. She was like a younger sister to him, a man only 24 years old. While most of the other younger mutants were easily distracted, she would choose to hang around, and learn from him whatever she could. He was shocked to find that she had some skill in navigation, and some minor potential for hacking. In all actuality, he didn't mind her being there. He didn't mind at all.

Outside the former Ops building, there was a small community of mutants scrapping for a living. The community had already done what they could to the former family housings, the tennis court, barracks, mess hall, theatre, storage houses, etc. The buildings themselves were pretty badly beaten up over the years, some of which had lost their doors or had spray paint all over their exterior (and interiors). When the first of the group found it, the insides of the buildings were a pigsty and needed to be cleaned out. Thankfully they had an incinerator nearby. Not to mention the subject of water, which that of the creek needed to be cleaned periodically. Bridget had come to the community in the middle of the group effort, one of her first jobs being to clean out the houses along with the women and children, and gather firewood for the storage. The men did the hard labor of fixing up the buildings as best as they could, and hunting alligators for food until people began to realize how easier it was just to send Bridget into the creek to catch some fish. You could almost say Bridget detested them for it, but as long as she had safe haven she supposed she could not complain.

Still, she wouldn't mind having alligator once in a while.

The creek that supplied most of the community's food was to the west. It was murky, swampy water with pockets of greenery poking out from its depths. Its depths were fairly shallow, but not shallow enough to stand in without water traveling into your nostrils. It was potentially dangerous waters if you weren't prepared for the wildlife, but Bridget had trained herself to notice any movement in the water that could be potentially dangerous, more for her sake than anything. The young adult stood at the edge of the single wooden deck that the communications station happened to have. Just like any other time, she delayed her job through the act of singing songs from popular movies, from memory... With a twist here or there.

"You'll find happy hearts... and smiling faces... Hipster girls, and blatant racists", she couldn't help but smirk at herself. "...In Denton. You'll find house shows and guys in plaids, self righteous nerds who study jazz - in Denton. You'll find empty classrooms, and busted parties! Indie kids who think they're artsy! No civic pride or civic duty! And Denton girls are..." she paused, and rolled her eyes, "full of 'beauty'. Heh."

With an overdramatic jump, Bridget absentmindedly teased the alligators and bugs with her horrible dancing, knowing fair well that either being would get annoyed with her antics. As for anything else, she couldn't care less. She felt daring. "Don't call us the goody-goody two shoes! We're here to hit you with the good news! That's D-E-N-T-O-N gets T-E-N, that's ten out of ten! If you're looking for a life of leisure, you're gonna get a whole lot to please ya! Again and again, and again and again, and AGAIN! Denton, Denton no more unpretension! You're where the heart is, you're OK! Denton, Denton I'd just like to mention you're the home of youth! You're America's truth! You're Denton, Dention, USA!"

"This is the Mecca of America, the Bethlehem of the West! This is the birthplace of the virtuous, the home of happiness! You'll love it here, and that's a fact!" she added sarcastically, "Enjoy your stay, have a happy holiday! AND WE'LL ALL PUT DENTON, DENTON ON THE MAAAAAAP!"

With a large, energetic jump, Bridget landed into the water on her back, probably scaring away some fish not that she cared. What she did care about was the split second she got of the creepiest set of eyes a guy could ever have the misfortune of having. "You!", she managed before becoming follow engulfed by dirty water. She quickly poked her head out so she could directly address the fifteen year old boy. "What are you doing here? Go play with your dumb friends!"

The creep just stared back, in the same way Zeke did, only a thousand times more unnerving than irritating. The guy legitimately creeped her out. He was like that weird kid that was always at school and would sit by himself tables away from your, staring up a storm before you decided to look away but you still feel him staring so you CAN'T HELP BUT STARE BACK. He was that sort of guy. Bridget wished that an alligator would hurry up and eat him already. "WELL?! You need anything?" The fucker just kept on staring. Bridget was this close to immersing herself back in the water until he finally spoke in that cold, emotionless tone of his, "Dinners being prepared, they want to know if you caught any fish yet." Bridget shuddered, she swore that kid was going to grow up to become a serial killer one day. Rolling her eyes, she responded, "Tell them I'll bring them when I'm finished." The boy nodded and left her to do her business, in a painfully slow manner. Bridget shuddered again, 'Where the hell did they find that kid anyways?'

Rolling her eyes again, Bridget dived back into the water, and commenced doing her job. That is, being the residential hunter. Fabulous job that is, by the way. Bridget rated it five gold stars.

====================================================================================

NOTES:
Since I have managed to do some research on this quiet little area and even managed to find some brilliant background on it, I thought I should share it all with you guys, for all of your convenience!

*A collection of old and current photos for your viewing pleasure, including documents that detail the buildings and their roles in Skaggs Island.


**A map of the area, also for your viewing pleasure.


***Finally some nice arial pictures..... For your viewing pleasure.

You're welcome! ;D
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby aj_gatsz » Thu Oct 06, 2011 3:13 am

~Snap; Cuba, watching from a tree above~

Snap relaxed as he realized that Hitsui was just generally cautious, and there was no threat around. A whole spectrum of emotions raged through him; relief, happiness, sorrow, anger, fear, doubt. But none of this could be seen on his face. Since the beginning of his mutation, his facial muscles were deteriorating. His facial expressions were already hampered by the time he got to the academy. By now they were completely gone, his biology no longer aimed to expression his feeling anymore, and all the muscles on his face were designed for one single purpose; to bite.
Snap slowly settled on the branch. His stance didn’t change much, but his muscles became more relaxed, as he was lying on the branch, watching the two people at the clearing. He shifted very slowly, not to ruffle the leafs around him. He put the carcass over the branch, some blood still dribbling down from it. He kept watching and listening to his former friends, while slowly licking his claws and fingers occasionally looking around, checking the surrounding for movement, or body-heat. You never can’t be too cautious.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Ro Wong » Thu Oct 06, 2011 12:50 pm

{Sector 15, District 4}

The fire burned under the starry sky.

Seated around the burning light were a handful of people, at best. They watched the light, minds wandering through the various meanings it held for them. One saw only the practical nature of it. The warmth it washed out over he and his friends was needed and welcomed in the cold air of the ruined city streets. Another saw it as a means of warding off the various creatures that may plague their dreams at nights. His eyes scanned around the shadows of the ruined building they were resting within. Another saw the light as a weapon; A power. He had heard stories from the people who had been in the large traveling group before he and his friends. Tales over the last year of the strange being that had started this band of refugees and rebels into the nomadic lifestyle. And he was still fearful of the creatures that were known to be summoned by their so-called benefactor. One man stood up and walked away from the fire, heading past the broken walls and into the dark, leaving the other three behind.

"H-hey... You guys think there's something out there?" One man inquired. He slid a bit closer to one of the others around the flames, wanting someone nearby for safety. He still wasn't sure that there was nothing in the shadows.

"Just shut up and relax, fool!" The man sitting across the flames alone demanded, glaring at the smallest of their little group. "We've told you hundreds of times that there aren't any monsters lurking in the dark..."

The man closer to the paranoid one just shook his head. "Actually, there might..." He got a pair of bulging eyes staring right at him for that. The other pair of eyes across the fire just rolled in frustration. "We've never met or even seen the guy who's supposed to have started people onto this big circus tour..." The younger man looked away, eyes still focusing onto the shadows lurking around the broken walls. The other just watched, listening. "All I know of the guy are just stories... Little things like how he's rescued half our numbers from prisons set up by those robots... Marching in, by himself, blowing apart every wall and machine in his way before having a horde of demons carry everyone off into the night. Bringing them here, like us, for who knows what."

The man across the flames arched an eyebrow. "So, you think we're being rescued and led around by some super powered, demon worshipping man of the night. And that he's most likely just stealing us from the machines to use us for his own dark whims?"

The other man nodded, glaring right back. "I've even seen something in the sky sometimes at night. Some kind of creature, flying around in the moonlight with these huge wings, just like some bat or a demon from Hell!"

The smaller man to his side twitched. "... I've seen that, too! Even seen some weird monsters running around at night. Short things, with smooth skin that changed colors, and large mouths full of these shining fangs!"

The man across the fire shook his head with a chuckle. "Funny... 'Cause I've heard stories from others that said the guy had the wings of an angel. That he would fly in whenever the machines managed to find someone that got separated from the group. Then he'd use the wings to cover himself in a suit of armor, like some kind of knight straight from the Arthurian Legends..."

This time, the other man near their cowardly friend was the one to roll his eyes. "And I suppose he cut down one of those twenty-something foot tall robots with a shiny sword, calling out the name 'Excalipoor' or some shit like that," he stated with a grin.

The other man shook his head. "You must play too many video games..." He looked up a moment, sighing. "No, what I've heard is that he creates these big guns in his hands. Not even metal or anything. They look like they're formed from some unearthly material after this blanket of mist spreads over his hands. And that he makes the robots start exploding all over just by pointing the guns at them and pulling the triggers."

"What?! Ahh, you're full of it!"

A sharp clinking of metal from behind a wall startled the three men before a small flicker of light sparked from the night. A soft glow gave way as metal clanked again and a man walked out from the wall, freshly lit cigarette in his mouth. His lighter was a bright brass with a silver inlay that formed swirling loops in the corner just under where the igniter was. He put it into the right pocket of his black coat, taking a moment to look over the other men as they stared at him.

Finally, he blew a puff of smoke from his lips as he pulled his cigarette down. ".... What, I scare you boys?" He asked with a grin while walking over with the others and sitting down.

They all three chuckled a bit, though the smallest was still twitching and looking around. The one sitting alone responded, "Think you just surprised us there, Jack. We got a bit wrapped up talking about these ghost stories these two had heard about our 'Great Leader'..." He snickered a bit while using his fingers in the air to place quotations around the title Great Leader.

"Oh? You boys are still on about that guy?" Jack shook his head while rolling his eyes. "How you know that he even exists? Probably just some cock-and-bullshit fairy tales the fightin' bunch started to make folks volunteer for recon and hunts." He took another long draw of his cigarette, breathing in deeply with an amused smile on his face. "Just forget that shit. Don't you guys gotta get ready for dinner, anyway?"

All three of the men froze as if they suddenly remembered that reality was waiting on them. They slowly started getting up, grumbling and complaining about it being their turn to cook. Jack stayed behind, sitting still while smoking and watching the small fire. All around, there were people walking to and from various spots in the streets, carrying items they'd found in town to the local elementary school where their people were calling home for the time being. Jack, meanwhile, just stayed seated until he finally finished his smoke, throwing the small remainder of the bud into the fire.

"... Wonder what Estacado's up to now, anyway..." Jack pondered aloud, reaching up, his fingers brushing through his short, red hair as he started scratching his scalp. "Hope he's bringing back something for me... Those three suck balls in the kitchen." He slowly stood up and started off into the night to head for the school, leaving the flames lit in case anyone else wanted to rest.

The fire burned under the starry sky.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby MQuinny1234 » Thu Oct 06, 2011 3:18 pm

Maddy Decadance - Sector 8

Maddy broke the kiss and dropped the decaying body to the ground, Edward's face turning ghoulish and rotted as the skin turned greyish and disgusting. She kicked a black-clad foot through it and the body crumbled away as she stepped forward. She smacked her lips a few times and ran a finger around the edges of her mouth. "Not a bad kiss, good taste too." she said quietly, studying her slightly red veins, taking the tint of Eddie's skin. She waved the arm and flicked the hand, watching it shimmer and fade slightly in the air, not unlike how people believed chameleons changed colour to suit their enviroment. "Interesting." She muttered, she could just about see a tree behind her arm, through slightly translucent bones, blood, muscle and the lines of her simple black tattoo, circling her arm. Her curiousity satisfied, she knelt beside poor Eddie to see what could be salvaged, pulling his trenchcoat's sleeves from the bag straps, the man really had abysmal fashion sense, although considering he was a cloaker, it probably wasn't that surprising.

After taking a few bottles of water, a pack of batteries and his vitamin and nutrition pills, she left the rest beside the remains of his aged corpse. She'd already dealt with Tom, he was in Maddy's own tent and unlikely to leave it and while Angela had regretably woken up in her own tent, half way through the transaction, she hadn't been able to get out from Maddy's sudden grip around her neck in time. Although the little brat had managed to get one of her hands into Maddy's arm. She was a beast-girl, able to take on certain monstrous traits such as elongated fingernail but her own lifeforce sealed the wound well enough. Maddy had just dealt with Eddie with a kiss on the lips to silence her sleepy questions of what had been the scuffling noise he'd heard. He too realised what was happening quickly enough but the poor fellow really wasn't a fighter, and Maddy's slightly strengthened nails allowed her to get a good grip into the sides of his head. Shame, she'd have prefered to have just taken care of him in his sleep, or left them all alone really, but in these days with sentinels searching through rumours of mutants and paranoia and anarchy, she'd really found it best to leave no witnesses. Plus, Tom had decided to try and get a little early-morning fun from Maddy, the type of his fun he certainly wouldn't have tried to make her supply with complete knowledge of her abilities, disgusting man.

She cracked her neck and looked towards their, her, destination, the dawning sun's rays bouncing across the water made a terrific sight to see from the hill. They'd planned to scope out the area today before requesting entry but Maddy would have to skip that part of the plan. Tom could have easily done it but if she tried, she'd almost certainly be noticed by their psychics or other security members, best just to act honest and plead to be taken in, something she specilised in. She started to pull down her trousers, flicking her slippers off dainty feet, quickly becoming tinier and daintier as the years rolled off her. The black hoodie she wore, descended towards the ground, stopping at little knees. Maddy grinned happily, a child's smile towards the awakening Mister Sunny, as her little toes wiggled in the grass, giggling happily at the feel of it. "Oh, it's feels nice to feel the earth under my feet." she said to the countryside, taking a moment to marvel at how young she sounded now, again. It always felt strange to be six again, bubbling with energy, giddy and excitable, bipolar and flightly, it was an odd effect to feel the body shape the mind like this. She felt a sudden pang to see Moggy again too but shrugged it off as she pulled the straps of her bag tighter, grimacing as the little six year old girl tried to carry a bag packed with supplies and clothes. "Must find a way to deal with this better." She grunted as she walked slowly down the hill, not being able to skip and ganter down it as she wished lest she fall and tumble under this blasted bag's weight. She groaned as she realised that she should make it to the shore by about...threeish, fourish O' clock? She yelled a very naughty word and glared back at a disapproving raven, grumbling other things no six year old should know under her breath as she carefully stepped forward, and then swore loudly again as she went tumbling down the hill, damn wet grass.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Glacier » Thu Oct 06, 2011 5:23 pm

-( In the jungles of Cuba )-

Ben didn't bother looking up into the tree, he instead peered off into the direction of his sleeping cell. One would think he'd be used to this by now, but he was never too secure about their safety during his time apart from them, no matter how long or short the time was. He did trust the training he instilled in those who wanted it, and his husky Luna was there so he was confident enough to leave the premises from time to time. Luna could sense danger miles away, it saved his ass enough that Ben regarded it as her sixth sense, or seventh if innate empathy could be counted as one as well.

When Hisui landed on the ground next to him, Ben sheathed the machete and opened his palm that was holding the torch, leaving it floating in levitation. He turned to greet his friend in noticeably higher spirits than he was in moments ago. Seeing her made his whole demeanor light up. No matter the painful memories of their past, some how they managed to survive this long between the jaws of hell and that was enough.

"Good evening Hisui... I go by Psychal now." he followed with a light chuckle. "Ya know, there was a time I thought I'd never hear that name again. Even my people don't know my real name" he said. Ben held his arms out to her inviting a hug. It was hard for him to see her the way she was now, but he could understand. Once vibrant eyes turned cold having seen the face of death, the body grew leaner having to utilize every morsel available, and the mind more weary not knowing if the next breath would be your last. Yeah, the world's decent into despair had a way of changing people, himself included. They where making progress though, and he was content with that for now.
Last edited by Glacier on Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby BG07 » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:06 pm

-Mickey-
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For a moment all of the questions that the man had, all of his worries or concerns seemed to melt away completely. He was happy and there wasn't a single other thing that the man wanted to think about. After holding the girl for a while, hearing her voice, and feeling her return his hug the man started to calm down a bit from his initial excitement. It felt like a heavy burden had just lifted itself off of his shoulders and he couldn't have been more relieved to know that she was still breathing. When the girl apologized to him, his smile dimmed slightly, showing that he didn't exactly like the way she felt like she needed to do something like that.

"Hey, I'm sure a lot has happened... and I'd like to hear about it too, but you don't have to force yourself to tell me unless you're ready to..." the man paused for a moment, his eyes drifting over the girl's body and all of the changes that had happened over the last few years. His smile was still present on his face, but his eyes showed a slight hint of sadness when he noticed all of the injuries she accumulated.

"You've been through a lot, so if you want to take your time... I'm fine with that too, you can tell me everything about it now or later... either way we have plenty of time." The man's face brightened up a bit after saying that. Hopefully time would really be something they had a lot of after this mission, it was something they needed after all that had happened. Mickey slid his arms down from the hug and down into the girl's hands, weaving his fingers into the girl's. There were plenty of things that the man wanted to ask, but he thought that maybe they weren't things that she wanted to tell him about just yet. The man's hand gently squeezed Azunka's left hand, the one with the missing fingers. He didn't want her to think that she needed to tell him anything right away, there were some things that Mickey was sure might have been just too painful to even explain.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Deena » Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:27 am

-???-

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Boring. It was boring without all of those guys, the ones that laughed at her stupid jokes, the ones that threw crumpled papers at her wacky wordplay. Over these past years of living with several dozen sweaty, smelly men and women in quarters too close for comfort more times than not, to have no company except for her five-minutes-too-fast analog watch was all kinds of boring. Or maybe the word she was looking for wasn't "boring" at all. What was it, then? Lonely? Yes, that sounded better. Penny was lonely. Penelope Silver was lonely.

Steve, that poor bastard. She had eaten half his rations yesterday and he made her promise to pay her back when he found out; how was she supposed to do that now that he was nothing but a crimson smear on the ground? Then there was Brett. He always laughed too hard at her lamer jokes. Maybe he had a thing for her. She'd never get to tease him about it now. And Daniels, that stupid Daniels, jumping in front of her like that. He knew she could handle it, but he was a chivalrous idiot until the end. Penny's fingers curled into fists, and she rubbed the welling wetness from her blurring vision with the backs of her hands.

The tiny shelter befitting of a hobo that protected Penny, made of scrounged cardboard and a few slabs of concrete from nearby toppled buildings, was beginning to sag as the pattering drizzle of rain from the sky turned to a hissing shower of water. She could feel the cardboard roof resting on top of her head, dripping water into her hair. Right, well, since she was going to be soaked anyway, she might as well get going. Standing to her feet suddenly, letting the cardboard roof of her shoddily crafted shelter fall to the ground, Penny began to walk back to the very graveyard she had left earlier.

Penny had comrades to save, after all. Not all of them were killed; all she could do was believe in that now. But a plan...she needed a plan. She recalled something about Sentinels being able to detect mutants...something about an X gene? Or was it that they weren't able to detect them? Or maybe they could only detect mutants if they used their abilities in front of them? Penny scratched her head, pouting at her failing memory. Zoning out when people explained important things was a bad habit of hers. Then again, that last one, mutants only detecting abilities when they were used, sounded particularly plausible. That had to be it! Now, a plan. She would walk right up to the place her comrades were being held, surrender peacefully while pretending to be as un-mutant as possible, and once inside, initiate a surprise attack and bust everyone out with her amazingly awesome mutant abilities. It was flawless. Penny's lips curled into a smug smirk; there was no doubt in her mind that this fantastic plan would succeed. She was rather proud of herself for being such a genius.

After a long trek involving quite a bit of grumbling on Penny's behalf due to forgetting she had used her super-speed to get as far away as possible, she finally reached the outskirts of the place she planned to infiltrate. Alright...now to initiate the plan...

"MUTANT DETECTED."

"Shit."

Penny could hear her comrades, living and dead, bursting out in laughter in her mind. Growling at those voices to shut the hell up, she coughed a bit and held up her hands nervously. There were at least three or four of those damned metal bastards here. Even with how amazing she was, she had a hard enough time handling one of them on her own, let alone that many. "I...uh...come in peace?"

There was always plan B. Only one problem...what was plan B again? Penny sighed; she'd figure that out when she got there.

---

-Dream-

The shadows of black paper puppets danced across a blank white wall, a soothing, feminine voice cooing a pleasant narration. "Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved stories. She loved them all, from stories of valiant knights that saved cities with their awesome might, tales of heroes that defended the frail and helpless, to songs praising the valor of paragons. She devoted herself to becoming a person who did good, not for praise or acceptance, but simply for the sake of it. Normally, this desire for heroism was a phase for little children, but this little girl was different. Naughty children feared her, and good children adored her. Slowly, surely, she gained respect amongst her peers, and as she grew, her desire to be a person who does good only became more and more the source of her strength."

"One day, the little girl discovered she had gained special abilities when she held her breath. She always held her breath when she was scared, but she was never afraid of being afraid, so these new abilities made her braver. Keeping her abilities a secret, she put on a mask and beat up the bad guys, blowing away evildoers, captured the criminals, all with the help of her new powers. But the little girl grew into a woman, and soon found that she couldn't save everyone. Over and over her loved ones died, sometimes right in front of her. Friends, acquaintances, family, all gone, and the only one she could save was herself. All the respect that she earned died with those she earned it from, and not a soul was left for her to protect, as she had failed in protecting any of them from the end of the world. As she felt herself sinking into despair, she remembered herself as a little girl, enamored by stories of princes and knights and heroes who did good for the sake of doing good, and she pulled herself out of her hole and found her determination. But where would this little girl, now a woman, go from there?"

---

-???-

Penny's nose was itching. Something reeked of sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol; whatever the smell was, it reminded her of a hospital, albeit with more of a metallic undertone. Gathering her willpower, she snapped open her eyes, then immediately regretted the action, squinting at the bright white that colored the small room's walls. "Nrrg...what the hell...?" Waves of dizzyness hurricaned about her as she sat up, a queasy churning threatening to upturn the contents of her stomach. She could faintly remember making an attempt to escape after the Sentinals had caught her, but her memory was fuzzy beyond the fact that the attempt was a quick failure. On top of her resistance unit being wiped out and her capture by a bunch of badly programmed robots, she was apparently also having very strange dreams summarizing her life in the form of a shadow puppet show narrated by her dead mother. Brilliant. Well, she reconsidered, it was better than that creepy dream with the garden gnomes. It was always good to think positive, after all. Penny liked to think she was particularly good at seeing the silver lining of everything, always keeping her mind on the bright side.

Noticing that her clothing felt more loose than usual, she patted her sides, her bottom, and her legs. Her toolbelts were missing. Not a surprise; even her clothes were different, a simple white shirt and a pair of sweatpants replacing what she recalled wearing before her capture. That's when she remembered something important; all her things were in those toolbelts. The ex-soldier gasped, horror twisting her facial features. Her makeup kit and hair brush were gone! Penny gritted her teeth and clenched her fingers into a fist. This was the last straw. "Those assholes!" she growled, rage building within her. Even that analog watch she got from her dad when she graduated high school was missing! With this newfound motivation, she stood up a bit too quickly, nausea and dizziness affecting her balance momentarily, but steadied herself against one of the box-like room's white walls. She had most certainly been drugged. She didn't blame the robots for that; she was quite the force to be reckoned with. Still, it was inconvenient. She calculated that her groggy current state would shave away a few precious seconds when she held her breath, a few seconds that could mean the difference between freedom and being thrown into a more elaborate prison than the white box she happened to be in now.

However, she had flight and super-speed on her side, on top of super-strength. She mumbled to herself, pondering punching through the walls very quickly, and then flying off. Surely the Sentinals didn't have any records on her abilities, did they? While she did try to escape during her capture, she didn't fight those crazy robots and display the full length of her capabilities. Then again, she did sort of rush into a Sentinal-infested area without thinking once, and that was what got her into this situation in the first place. Besides, she had come here to try and bust the prisoners out. She was likely not the only mutant in this joint, so perhaps biding her time and figuring out a way to get in contact, or wait for contact, from another prisoner was a good idea.

Still, it didn't hurt to test out the surroundings. Having finally composed herself, steadying her balance and allowing her brain a moment to stop spinning, she placed a palm on her heart and waited for her pulse to slow down. When she was satisfied that her body was calm, she inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with as much air as they would willingly hold. Her knuckles whitened as she entertwined her hands together into one fist. Swinging her arms as if preparing to throw a discus, letting her braided fingers gain momentum, she slammed her hands into the white wall before her. A loud "thud" echoed through the small room along with a creak of bending metal. Exhaling, Penny resumed breathing normally as she examined the damage she wreaked.

There was a dent in the wall now, approximately the size of her fists, but only about a quarter of an inch deep. She hadn't used her full power, as in retrospect she could have used her super-speed to gain more momentum, but with the disappointing dent she managed with her strength alone, it seemed that this prison would be tougher to break out of than she thought. "Well, time for plan B," she mumbled. "Oh, wait. I think I'm at C now. Plan C, then." Squatting down to the floor, she crossed her legs and leaned back against the now dented wall. Trying to come up with a plan C was a bit difficult when even abnormally godlike strength couldn't get her out of this place, so she concluded that taking a nap and letting the plan come to her on its own was worth considering.

Thus, she closed her eyes and waited. Then she sneezed. That hospital smell really reeked something awful.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Karo » Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:30 pm

命❀~In the jungles of Cuba, Hisui~❀命

Hisui simply watched as Ben's spirits lifted simply from seeing her, her own face remaining unmoved. She had not smiled once since she had awoken from her coma, and now was no exception. She simply nodded as he explained that he went by Psychal, and that he hadn't ever expected to hear his real name again. Until she had run into him, she hadn't expected to hear her own names again either. In the time between when she had left Genosha until she had found Ben not a single person knew her name, or that she had even been standing next to them. As far as the rest of the world knew, Hisui Ito had died on Genosha six years prior.

As Ben opened his arms for a hug, Hisui remained rooted to her place. She would have loved to accept the hug, but if she did, there was no doubt in her mind that she would begin to cry, and Ben would try and convince her that the failure of Genosha was not her fault. And if she let herself break down like that, then odds were good she might begin to believe him. Had she not tried to convince everyone to accompany her to Genosha and slipped away by herself, then the Professor would not have had to try so hard in order to protect them all, and both he and most of the other students might have still been around today. Causing the loss of so many people was not something she could forgive herself for, and it was not something she thought that anyone else should forgive her for either.

So instead of letting the awkward moment hang long, Hisui marched straight into her nightly report. "The jungle has gotten quiet. All of the Primers have pulled back into the city. I have a feeling they're planning something. It might be best if your camp moves to a new location in the morning. I doubt all of the Primers here are dumb enough to believe that the jungle is populated by giant purple panthers that enjoy eating people." Usually, that sort of comment would have enticed a laugh, both from the person hearing it, and the person saying it, but Hisui remained quiet, with some internal difficulty. She still had some of her sense of humor, otherwise she wouldn't have used purple panthers to begin with.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby aj_gatsz » Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:59 pm

~Snap; Cuba, watching from a tree above~

Snap keeps on watching his former friends from above, and settles down on the branch. The nervousness what he didn’t feel for so long, started to rise again. iJust like the first day in the new school, and seeing that cute Asian girl in his class. But those days are long gone. Doubts start to plague him. Is it really a good idea to walk in again after so many years? Maybe he should let them be. But he can be helpful. He is a good hunter, and Hitsui looks so thin, he could hunt for her and himself, and she would have enough to eat again.

“The food!” flashes through Snap’s mind, and he quickly reaches out for the carcass. The nervousness making his clumsy again and he rather tips the dead animal, than grabbing it. He tries to grab it, but misses as it slips off the branch.

Snap grabs the branch and flattens himself against it, muscles ready to jump, as the carcass falls down, and lands in the bushes making quite a noise. It’s the basic animalistic behavior from now on, hold still, maybe they won’t notice you, and if they seem to do… flee.
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Re: X-Men AoA, Issue #1: Reunion

Postby Fellguarde » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:01 pm

[Mount Kailash]

The world bled back. Hiram opened his eyes, the undulating corona of heat that had gathered about him dispersing into the cold air, and almost immediately he felt a brief shiver patter down his spine. He had slipped into a deep well of concentration while waiting for Tag to awaken, slowing his breathing to a crawl and leaving the confines of his flesh behind. It had, over time, become routine for Hiram, plumbing the depths of his consciousness to explore his powers and their degenerative effects upon the world. It was this that had steeled him for the tribulations offered by life upon the snowy wasteland of Mount Kailash.

Though, Tag seemed to be doing well enough without such conditioning. Or, perhaps, she had undergone a similar process, only accelerated a hundred fold by her apparently enhanced psychological capability for adaptation. Hiram couldn’t help but wonder what depth such an ability possessed – was her existence only motion, or was her Self, too, fortified in a way incomprehensible to the thinking patterns of normal humans? In some ways, she seemed to have achieved a quite enviable state of existence – she appeared free of the angst that pervaded the human condition, free of uncertainty and discontent. To what extent this was inherent to her mutation, rather than a simple product of trauma, however, only time would tell. Either way, unless she spontaneously developed a newfound fondness for conversation, he was currently limited to speculation on the subject.

“No.” He answered curtly, heaving himself up. “If you eat too much you’ll get fat and slow.”

Hiram knew that was a half-truth. No one, no matter how indolent, could pick enough sustenance from the face of the mountain to fatten themselves up to the point of sluggishness. But Hiram had come to Kailash to test himself. It would do his companion some good to similarly examine her own limits. Perhaps, beyond those horizons, she’d find something of herself that she’d never known of. Something of value.

Of course, in her current state of comprehension, perhaps such things were impossible. Hiram had wondered before just how much of what he was saying was even understood by the girl – whether she fully comprehended his sentences, or simply associated certain key words with some primal importance. Whatever the case, Hiram hadn’t stooped to chopping up his language into chunks around her. It did him good to properly exercise his vocal chords occasionally.

He trudged back to the tent, hefting up an overburdened rucksack and slinging the rifle over his shoulder, before making his way a few meters from their campsite, where the view of the land below stretched before him.

“I’m going down there.” He pointed towards the stupas he’d seen lit by firelight the night before. “Hopefully I can trade a few things for some more ammo. Coming?”
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